What Works for You: Home Office Part 2

I know it’s been too long between these posts, and all I can say is I will make sure the next one comes out more quickly.   Last time we were talking about defining our needs for our “home office”.  (You can find the first post here)  I asked you to think about what you needed to do in your office, where you typically did those things, how much time you spend on “office” tasks, and what supplies you needed to complete them.  These are all really important things to think about when figuring out what your home “office” means to you and eventually, what it will look like.

Before we get to the fun part of setting up the office, organizing everything to suit our needs and all that other fun stuff, there is one more thing that bares thinking about.  To me, it’s one of the most important questions, it will make or break your office system, I kid you not.  It’s one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned over the years, and one I wish I had learned a looooong time ago.  It has made things so much simpler, freed up a ton of head-space where stress about the mess used to be.  The question you need to ask next is:


  • How do you accomplish those tasks in your list?
  • How do you deal with the items that you need for those tasks?
  • How do you like to keep things?
  • How can you set things up to work the easiest, fastest way possible for YOU?


To clarify a little, I’m going to share my “Ah-ha” moment with you.


The paper items coming into the home have always been a problem area for me.  When I was first starting out on my own, I set up everything the way I’d watched my Mom do it.  I had file for each bill, a file for medical stuff, income tax, pay stubs, bank statements, eventually one for kid things, and so on.  I was pretty proud of the fact that I thought to set up a file system at all, and it was pretty easy to keep the files neat and tidy, mainly because nothing ever really made it into them.  You see, mail would come in, and I’d open it, or recycle it, and I’d pay my bills, but I never seemed to get from that to putting the bill in the right folder.  Instead they would accumulate on my desk, in an ever growing pile, until they either found their way to the floor in a massive correspondence avalanche, or I finally got sick of the pile and spent HOURS sorting and filing.


At that time I hadn’t read much about organizing, I didn’t know as much as I know now, and I didn’t really understand that everyone has their own way of doing things.  And that it was perfectly fine, if how I needed to be organized was different from how my parents were.  I tried everything, in and out boxes (ha ha ha … the inbox was always full, and the out box was mostly just hidden under the in pile)  I tried telling myself, “It takes just a few moments to file it away, do it NOW”  Nothing really truly worked.  As in, I stuck with it.  Then one day a few years ago, in a mad dash to clean up the house before company stopped by (If you’re someone who struggles with staying organized, you’ll know the mad dash I mean) I looked at the pile of papers, and made a split second decision to toss them in a basket, instead of spending 15-30 minutes sorting and filing.  A few days later, new mail came in, and with it, new paper stuff, and into the basket it went.  A week or two went by, I noticed that paper stuff wasn’t piling up in any of the usual spots.  In fact, it wasn’t piling up at all.  WOW!  I was shocked and amazed.  Current bills waiting to be paid were clipped to the fridge, school notices were clipped to the fridge, but all the other stuff was tucked into the basket.  It made me stop and think about why it was keeping the clutter away.  And it amazed me that that one simple, split second decision created a whole new system for us, and it was WORKING without me having to even think about it.


Why did it work?  Well, I’m a piler.  Yep!  One of those pesky people who like to pile up papers, books, anything and everything (ok maybe not anything and everything, but paper for sure) and most of the time, I knew exactly where everything was, but it was always a mess, there was always damage control to do.  I didn’t want to file it away, but I didn’t want to hide it for fear I would forget to file it.  Using the basket allowed me to continue to pile things, but at the same time, made me make sure the important stuff was out where those who needed it could see it.  When the basket got full I spent about an hour sorting through it, filing stuff away, shredding what didn’t need to be kept, and recycled the rest.  There’s an added bonus to this system for me, my files are much neater.  I’m not keeping as much paper stuff as I used too.  And, as an EXTRA added bonus, we’ve gone with paperless billing for every account we can, and that’s a HUGE amount of paper not even coming in the door, which helps tremendously.


As silly as it sounds, that one decision, and the end results caused me to look at the rest of my systems with new eyes, and the success of that decision allowed me to think outside the box without feeling like I was doing it wrong.


Thinking about how we do things is just as important as thinking about what we do.  There are so many different ways of accomplishing the same task.  They might look different, they might not make sense to all of us, but they all do the same thing.  So, before we go forward with the really fun stuff, take some time to think about the how!  You’ve already thought about your needs, the space you’re going to work in, what you need to do the work, now think about HOW you’re going to do that work.  One more quick example:  How I plan our grocery shopping.  I do up a meal plan, check the fridge, freezer, and pantry, go through the flyers to see what’s on sale, and I do it all in the kitchen.  So, for me, keeping the stuff I need for that in the kitchen, makes a lot of sense.  Even though it’s something I consider an office task, that stuff gets the best use if it’s got a home in the kitchen.


So take some time to think about the Hows, and I’ll be back soon with part 3:  Bringing it all together.


Have you ever had an “Ah-ha” moment?  Ever made a quick decision that ended up being one of the best you ever made?

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